Children’s bed time is getting later and later. The old rule of no TV during the week and early nights because of school the next morning no longer seem to apply.

With the distractions of TV, computer games, internet, texting friends and Facebook, many children are staying up way past their bedtime.

When children sleep well, they’ll be more settled, happy and ready for school the next day. Getting enough sleep strengthens their immune systems and could reduce the risk of infection and illness. It also aids their overall development and ability to function properly during their waking hours.

Dr Dodd of the University of South Australia’s Centre for Sleep Research pointed out that “During sleep many important hormones are secreted that affect growth, regulate energy and control metabolic and endocrine functions. Of particular interest in the weight debate are the hormones leptin and ghrelin, which influence appetite and hunger.”

According to the University of South Australia’s Centre for Sleep Research, the recommended amount of sleep is:

  • Pre-schoolers – 11 to 13 hours per night
  • Primary school children – 10 to 11 hours per night
  • Teenagers – 8 to 10 yours per night

But with a plethora of TV programs on each night aimed at the younger view, it is very difficult to get children off to bed, let alone asleep, before 8.30pm. All the channels are vying for their attention, with Junior MasterChief and Bondi Vet finishing at 8.30pm and The X-Factor not finishing until 9pm; and all of them on week nights.

Sarah Blunden, also of the University of South Australia’s Centre for Sleep Research said “There is some new research which shows that children are very susceptible to changes in the amount of sleep they are getting,” who recently presented her research at the Australasian Sleep Conference held in Sydney.

“If they are deprived of 30 minutes to an hour of sleep each night – which is what might occur if they are staying up to watch television until 9pm or so – it can make a big difference to the way they perform.”

According to the The Better Health Channel, which is part of the Digital Strategy and Services Unit in the Victorian Government’s Department of Health, if teenagers miss out on their sleep the consequences can be even greater with the developing brain of a teenager needing an average 9 hours of  sleep per night.

Chronic ongoing sleep deprivation could potentially lead to:
• Concentration difficulties  and mentally ‘drifting off’ in class
• Shortened attention span and memory impairment
• Poor decision making and lack of enthusiasm
• Moodiness, aggression and depression
• Risk-taking behaviour

Sarah Blunden concluded that  “Our research has found that children who do not get enough sleep show increased aggressive behaviour, they are less attentive, their concentration is poorer and they are less likely to play sport. The children show what is traditionally described as hyperactive behaviour.”

Writer Helen Splarn. Editor Dr Ramesh Manocha.
Source: University of South Australia’s Centre for Sleep Research. The Better Health Channel